Nonfiction November: My Year in Reading Nonfiction

This year I’m returning to Nonfiction November, one of my favorite blogging events. This event is hosted by Leann @ ShelfAware, Katie @ Doing Dewey, Julie @ Julz Reads,  and Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction to discuss our favorite nonfiction reads of the year. The first question comes from Leann:

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?  Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?  What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?  What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

This year, like a lot of people, I focused on books about race, and these books have given me a better understanding of a lot of issues. I can see how my experiences (e.g., with police) differ so much from those of other people, just because of skin color. I can also see where perceptions I have held were completely wrong, and where I’ve been defensive or misunderstood my own racism. 

So far I’ve I read 16 works of nonfiction in 2020, many of them by audiobook. 

  1. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
  2. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  3. Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam
  4. So You Want to Talk About Race by Oluo Ijeoma
  5. How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  6. White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
  7. How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
  8. The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
  9. The Yellow House by Sarah Broom
  10. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
  11. No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know about Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder
  12. Know My Name by Chanel Miller
  13. Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen
  14. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
  15. The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff
  16. Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi

I’ve recommended quite a few of these books to others.  My most frequently recommended book is probably So You Want to Talk About Race, because I found Ijeoma’s discussion of race to be both heartfelt and practical.  She helped me understand some issues I was struggling with, and gave me a new understanding of other issues.  Yet her book felt really personal as well. 

I’ve also frequently recommended Know My Name, which is just an outstanding work in every regard.  For anyone who wants a better understanding of domestic/relationship abuse (and we all should), No Visible Bruises is a must-read. In particular, the book identifies a lot of red flags to look for early in a relationship, and it also identifies practical community approaches to combat domestic abuse.

For friends with teenage daughters, I’ve recommended Popular, a book that says so many things about popularity and self-identity that I wish I’d known as a teen – and I enjoyed every minute of Maya’s story. 

On the historical front, George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy should be required reading for every child in this country.  Takei’s work is brilliant – it’s moving and yet provided a lot of historical detail I wasn’t aware of, all in the form of a graphic novel.  And The Only Plane in the Sky gave a fascinating overview of what happened on September 11, in incredible detail (I recommend listening to this one).

I’ve completed most of the Nonfiction Reader Challenge by Book’d Out, reading books in the categories of memoir, a disaster event, social science, about an occupation, history, feminism, psychology, medical issues, nature, and true crime (I need science and a book published in 2020). I’m on pace to read about as much nonfiction in 2020 as I did in 2019. I plan to keep reading nonfiction that teaches me about specific issues, particularly nonfiction by diverse authors. Some of my upcoming reads are The Fire This Time, a collection of essays about race, See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill, about domestic violence, and The Story of More by Hope Jahren, about climate change.

What nonfiction books did you read this year that you recommend?

  19 comments for “Nonfiction November: My Year in Reading Nonfiction

  1. November 5, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    I’m hoping to finally read Know My Name this month. I know it’s going to be difficult read but I think I’m emotionally ready for it.

    • November 6, 2020 at 8:03 am

      It’s so good. It is a hard read but it’s also inspiring.

  2. November 5, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    Excellent list. Yellow House was my favorite nonfiction book of 2019.

    • November 9, 2020 at 5:27 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I didn’t love Yellow House as much as I expected to, I’m not sure why since I’ve only heard great things about it. Do you have a favorite for this year?

  3. November 6, 2020 at 8:49 am

    You read some amazing books. I really want to read The Salt Path.

    • November 9, 2020 at 5:26 pm

      Thanks Erin, The Salt Path was really good — I would call it a calming read, which was perfect this month. Not a lot of drama but really inspiring, and it really made me appreciate what I have. Plus I love books that focus on nature.

  4. November 6, 2020 at 8:52 am

    Ok so I just looked up Popular and definitely want to read it! I sent a message to my friends suggesting we read it together and include one of their tween daughters in the reading of it. 🙂

  5. November 6, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    What a list. I am wondering if I should read only nonfiction in 2021. I feel like I have so much to learn.

    • November 9, 2020 at 5:15 pm

      I agree about having so much to learn! I often think the more educated we are, the more we know how much we don’t know. But I could never give up fiction entirely.

  6. November 7, 2020 at 11:04 am

    One of my goals for next year is to read more books about race. So You Want To Talk About Race and They Called Us Enemy are high on my priority list. This year, I mostly read nonfiction about politics because of the US election.

    • November 9, 2020 at 5:14 pm

      Both of those are fantastic books. I’m also reading The Fire This Time which is really good, and I plan to read Why I’m No Longer Talking about Race. What did you read that you recommend? I stayed away from all the Trump books this year.

  7. November 10, 2020 at 6:55 am

    Congrats on all your nonfiction reading, and thanks for sharing your recommendations.

  8. November 18, 2020 at 11:31 pm

    I can’t even imagine how powerful it is to listen to The Only Plane in the Sky. I read it right after it came out and just couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s still sitting with me all these months later.

  9. November 22, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    That’s a good and varied list and I have a few of those on my TBR or wishlist. I’ve read some good books on nature and some good books on race this year.

  10. November 29, 2020 at 11:04 am

    It is almost the end of the month and I am still catching up on so many posts but I have added several of your books to my TBR. I love how varied your list is!

    • November 30, 2020 at 7:46 am

      Thanks for your comment! Nonfiction November has kept me very busy this month, I’ve gotten so many good recommendations! If you read any of these, I hope you enjoy them.

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